I want to send and receive SMS texts on my Mac. Can I do this using the Messages/iMessage app in OS X El Capitan?

Yes, you can send and receive SMS texts on your Mac - although you'll need to link the Mac to an iPhone.

Apple brought text-style messaging to the Mac a few years back with Messages (sent from the Messages app in Mac OS X). With Messages you have always been able to send iMessages from a Mac to other people using an Apple device.

Before the launch of OS X Yosemite in 2014, if the other person wasn't using an Apple device then you'd be stuck. You'd have to go back to the iPhone, which can send and receive regular text messages.

With Yosemite, and its new Continuity features, all that changed. And El Capitan continues to offer the ability - if you have an iPhone, and a Mac - to use Messages to send and receive text messages. In this article we show you how.

Read next: How to fix iOS iMessage problems | El Capitan tips

How to send and receive texts on your Mac: How does Messages for the Mac send texts?

In most respects the Messages app in Yosemite and later is like earlier version of Messages, which in turn is like most messaging apps. What Yosemite added was the ability to send and receive text messages. This shouldn't be possible because the Mac doesn't have a SIM card, and isn't a phone. But if you have an iPhone and a Mac, OS X links the two together.

If your Mac and iPhone are using the same Apple ID, the devices know when they are on the same network together and Messages syncs all the text messages from the iPhone. So you get to see all the text messages alongside all your regular iMessages.

If you send a message from the Messages app on a Mac it first tries to send it as an iMessage; but if the person hasn't got iMessages enabled (or isn't using an Apple device) it sends it as a standard text message. OS X doesn't actually send the message itself: it directs the message via the iPhone to the person, and the message is synced on your iPhone and Mac.

The upshot of this is that you can send and receive text messages with anybody directly using Messages on your Mac. Once this is set up it's a great way to use Messages.

How to send and receive text messages on Mac

How to send and receive texts on your Mac: Set up text message forwarding

First of all, make sure that you've installed Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite or later - we'd recommend using the latest version, El Capitan. (Here's how to update your Mac to El Capitan.) You'll also want to install the latest version of iOS (iOS 9.3.2 at time of writing) on your iPhone.

Now make sure you're signed into iCloud on both your iOS device and Mac using the same Apple ID.

  • On your Mac, click Apple > System Preferences. Click on iCloud and check the email address listed under your name on the left.
  • On your iPhone, tap Settings > iCloud and check the email address listed underneath your name.

Both of these email addresses should be the same. If not, you'll need to sign out of iCloud on one of your devices and sign in using the other Apple ID.

Follow these steps to set up text message forwarding on your iPhone:

  • Click on the Messages app in your Mac to open it.
  • Move to the iPhone. Open the Settings app. Scroll down and tap Messages.
  • Tap Text Message Forwarding.
  • You'll see a list of all the devices linked to your Apple ID. Tap the one you want to send and receive messages to On.

How to send & receive text messages on Mac

  • You now need to enter the six-digit verification code (which appears in Messages on the Mac) on the iPhone, in the alert window marked Text Message Forwarding.

How to send & receive text messages on Mac

  • Tap Allow.

Whenever anybody sends a text message to your iPhone, it will appear inside Messages in OS X. And you can now reply with a text message from your Mac.

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